The Chiefs should look to draft a safety with their 1st pick in the draft. But not only as an option to play along side Eric Berry, but to possibly replace him.
Eric Berry has been to 3 Pro Bowls in his 3 seasons played. He was 1st team All-Pro one year. According to profootballfocus he was targeted more than any other safety, but 18 other safeties gave up more passing yards while only 2 finished with a better coverage grade than Berry. He also had the 2nd most defensive stops and most QB disruptions from the safety position. In 3 years he’s had 218 solo tackles, 3 forced fumbles, 2 recovered fumbles, 8 interceptions, 5 ½ sacks, and 3 defensive touchdowns. But is all this enough?
Eric Berry has a cap hit in 2014 of $11,619,700. This is 1.5 million higher than the next highest safety. In fact, there are only two safeties over $10 million on their cap hit and only five over $8 million. To put it one final and most discouraging way, Eric Berry’s cap hit for this season is $421,485 higher than the Seahawks Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas… COMBINED!
These numbers can generate a lot of questions. Is he worth that? Is any safety worth it to eat up that much cap space on a roster? Why didn’t the Chiefs restructure his deal? If it was Berry that wasn’t willing to restructure, what could he demand when he is a free agent after the 2015 season?
First and foremost, is it smart organizationally to have the highest paid safety in the league on your team, regardless of his performance on the field. Obviously you sometimes cannot decide what position your best players end up at. But you also do not have to resign those players. There were some big time safeties that changed teams this off season through free agency. Jairus Byrd signed 6 years for $54 million, Donte Whitner signed a 4 year $28 million deal. If Eric Berry wants to keep his $10 million per year average, he should not be a Chief after the 2015 season.
That’s where the 2014 1st round pick comes into play. A lot of people have the Chiefs taking a wide receiver. Yes, a deep threat game changing wide receiver is definitely needed on this offense. This offense that put up 44 points in a playoff game. The Chiefs should be looking at Calvin Pryor if he falls or Jimmie Ward for that selection.
Pairing Pryor, or my pick, Ward, with Eric Berry would give the Chiefs a safety duo that could challenge any teams in the league. And in a league that is becoming more and more dominated by the passing game, this is an increasingly important position. What this will also allow the Chiefs to do is have some bargaining chips when Berry becomes a free agent or during the 2015 season if trying to resign him early. They will have Ward along with Cummings and Abdullah, both who seem to have good upside. Should two of those three hit, Berry could be traded and/or let go if he is demanding too high of a salary. That’s $10 million a year that can be spent on a pass rusher, or a wide receiver, or a shutdown corner. Those positions that should command a cap hit of that level for an organization.
This is not a pro-release Berry take. I hope that Eric Berry can be a Kansas City Chief for the bulk, if not all, of his career. I hope he is the staple of our defense that brings us a Super Bowl. But this is the job of a general manager. You cannot get the team in a situation where any player is making more than his worth, especially ones that are making the most on your team. Eric Berry is no doubt a dynamic player. An All-Pro and Pro Bowl player. A special player. A player that can be a fan favorite year in and year out. But the question remains, at what cost?
Ryan Sesler is a Chiefs team journalist. For Chiefs coverage, follow him @RyanSesler